South Korea prosecutor seeks arrest of Samsung chief for bribery

Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:56am EST
 
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By Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's special prosecutor on Monday sought a warrant to arrest the head of Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], the country's largest conglomerate, accusing him of paying multi-million dollar bribes to a friend of President Park Geun-hye.

Investigators had grilled Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee for 22 straight hours last week as a suspect in a corruption scandal, which last month led to parliament impeaching Park.

The special prosecutor's office accused Lee of paying bribes total 43 billion won ($36.42 million) to organizations linked to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president who is at the center of the scandal, in order to secure the 2015 merger of two affiliates and cement his control of the family business.

The 48-year-old Lee, who became the de facto head of the Samsung Group after his father, Lee Kun-hee, was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014, was also accused of embezzlement and perjury, according to the prosecution's application for an arrest warrant.

"The special prosecutors' office, in making this decision to seek an arrest warrant, determined that while the country's economic conditions are important, upholding justice takes precedence," special prosecution spokesman Lee Kyu-chul told a media briefing.

Prosecutors have evidence showing that Park and Choi shared profits made through bribery payments, he said, without elaborating.

Lee is due to appear on Wednesday morning at the Seoul central district court, which will decide whether to grant the arrest warrant.

Samsung, whose companies generate $230 billion in revenue, equivalent to about 17 percent of South Korea's economy, rejected the accusation that Lee paid bribes.   Continued...

 
Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee arrives to attend a hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, December 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji